Hanging with Jesus: Church and State (Part 2)

In Matthew 22, Jesus is accosted by two groups of people who approach Him to test Him by asking whether they should pay taxes to Rome. The heart of the matter is whether or not they have grounds, as God’s people, to disobey those in authority whom they disagree with.

All of us, at some point, have questioned the actions and decisions of those in government or authority? But when dealing with such matters, we should always turn to the Bible for direction and wisdom.

So we can we refuse to obey those in authority over us? Again, the Bible gives concrete examples of when we can disobey those in authority over us.

“All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition (prays) to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” Daniel 6:7

When the king authorized this ordinance, Daniel knowingly went about his regular time and practice of prayer. He could have privately prayed over the next 30 days or cease praying, but that was not his practice.

Daniel understood the consequences and also understood that he could not pray to anyone other than His God. Therefore, obeying this ordinance would cause Daniel to violate the commandment of “you shall have no other gods before me.”

Similarly, in Daniel 3, “10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could not comply with this order. As the masses bowed in worship, these three guys stood up and stood out. Once again, this was in direct violation of God’s law.

Any time a law is made that would cause us to disobey God, we cannot comply, no matter the cost. With that exception, the Bible gives us clear instructions on being good citizens of this world.

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1-2

1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

“13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,” “17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:13, 17

Two of the three passages of scripture above inform us to be subject to governing authorities and every human institution. (Nope, that’s not a typo, it says “every”)

Just so that we are on the same page, to be subject means to be under the authority of the prescribed entity.

When we choose to obey God’s Word and honor those in authority around us, even when we disagree, this gives God glory and allows us to maintain our peace.

We can disagree with someone and still obey. This requires humility. And doing so is what Jesus is teaching. The alternative is unjustified rebellion.

Rebellion should not be taken lightly because rebellion has no borders and is without limits. Unjustified rebellion will not only incur consequences from the powers that be, but we will also receive correction from God.

The reality is we live in an unjust world. One day God will make right every wrong. But, through obedience, we leave room for God’s vengeance.

Until then, we are to live in a way that honors God by honoring those in authority and trusting God.

From its inception, the Church has experienced and endured tyrants, oppressive Kings, and governments, and she has outlasted them all!

We must keep our eyes on the Kingdom of Heaven and not get entangled in battles that distract us from directing people to this eternal Kingdom.

Every two or four years, we may have leaders that we may disagree with, but God’s Word instructs us to pursue peace and reminds us that “good soldiers do not get entangled in civilian affairs.”

  • Let’s prioritize obedience to God above our political or personal opinions.
  • Let’s take every thought and word captive and live humbly.

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